Fiction

2018

The Five Secret Truths of Demonkind in Big Echo. The earth is cursed; humans are doomed to become monsters. A demon breaches virtue’s fortress in search of God.

‘Red as Water, White as Ruin’ in Mythic Delirium. An expedition journeys to a land devastated by an unknown apocalypse, navigating an impossible curse and an impossible survivor. Secondary-world horror/dark fantasy.

‘The Owls of Juttshatan’. On a cold world of slow-moving terns, a child grows in the shadow of her mother the war hero. She is a creature of peace, raised in quiet among maps and dreams and owls. But she can be more, if she chooses. A space opera novelette of brutal bildungsroman. Prequel to ‘Autodidact’

2017

‘You and I Shall be as Radiant’. Hu Feilin is a survivor of genocide, one of the last of her world. She knows of only one other, her sister Hu Liyan, a child selected by the tyrants for military training. To get Liyan back, Feilin will overcome anything: ancient ghosts, a genocidal army—or her own sister’s wish.

‘After-Swarm’. In the far future, soldiers are sent to fight a proxy war on a distant planet to solve the question: who owns Earth? But with the war resolved, soldiers no longer have a use. Emilia, once valued for her machine affinity, must return to the life she left behind and face a world ordered anew.

‘No Pearls as Blue as These’ in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Bidaten is a bulwark, one of those bred as living weapons to fight horrors from beyond the high, vast walls that keep humanity safe from monsters. Duty is all she knows until her lord brings home a beautiful foreign bride.

‘Fade to Gold’ in Pseudopod (audio reprint). Narrated by Jen Zink.

‘The Universe as Vast as Our Longings’ in The Jewish Mexican Literary Review. In a far future, a country of tyrants conquers a world and takes in its children to raise as willing collaborators. When all you have is nothing, living itself is resistance. 6,200 words.

‘The Sun Shall Lie Across Us Like Gold’ in Clockwork Cairo (ed. Matthew Bright, Twopenny Press). Post-colonial steampunk in 19th century Thailand. Sequel to ‘The Governess and We’. 3,500 words.

‘Parable of the Cocoon’ in Big Echo. When the aliens came it was not to invade, but to uplift humanity for the purposes of an inscrutable war. Human subjects are selected for alien communion, given to perceive time in parallax… or perhaps something else entirely. 5,800 words.

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MIRRORSTRIKE announced!

Winterglass now officially has a sequel! Official post on Apex:

With her mother’s blood fresh on her hands, Nuawa has learned that to overthrow the tyrant Winter Queen she must be as exact as a bullet … and as pitiless.

In the greatest city of winter, a revolt has broken out and General Lussadh has arrived to suppress it. She’s no stranger to treason, for this city is her home where she slaughtered her own family for the Winter Queen.

Accompanying the general to prove her loyalty, Nuawa confronts a rebel who once worked to end the queen’s reign and who now holds secrets that will cement the queen’s rule. But this is not Nuawa’s only predicament. A relentless killer has emerged and he means to hunt down anyone who holds in their heart a shard of the queen’s mirror. Like the general. Like Nuawa herself.

On these fields of tumult and shattered history, the queen’s purposes will at last be revealed, and both Lussadh and Nuawa tested to their limits.

One to wake. Two to bind. These are the laws that govern those of the glass.

Mirrorstrike is scheduled for late 2019. I’m, obviously, very excited about this. The sequel will be a good bit longer than book one, the stakes are higher, everything will be more. To celebrate the occasion, here is an illustration of the Winter Queen by  the fantastically talented Thai artist Moga.

winterqueen

‘Whatever Remains, However Improable, Must be the Truth’ (Miss Sherlock, 2018)

There must be something compelling about the Sherlock Holmes canon that has spawned what is, by now, its own sub-genre — a billion retellings, as it were, seemingly as prevalent as (if not more) than retellings of Grimm’s fairytales. I’ve never been particularly interested, and anyway procedurals and mysteries aren’t my kind of thing.

Miss Sherlock stands out not just because this time around both Sherlock Holmes and Watson are Japanese women, but by how they’re handled. Modern incarnations of Sherlock Holmes tend toward the antisocial, asshole genius and that’s all well and good, but what if the antisocial, asshole genius is a woman? Probably she was traumatized; probably she will be threatened with rape at least once during the cause of the show, if not some sort of suggestively filmed violence.

Not this one.

Tachibana Wato — Wato-san, you see, a bilingual pun so bad it’s good— is a volunteer medic who’s just returned from Syria; at the airport, she meets her mentor, whose stomach promptly explodes (fridged men casualty count: 1) and demonstrates that the show doesn’t shy away from gore. Enter Sherlock (who has a real name but which goes unmentioned in the show), a consulting detective the police call in when they encounter unsolvable cases. You know the drill. The hotel at which Wato stays goes up in fire by the end of episode one, forcing her to co-habit with the gorgeous, impeccably dressed detective, and if you’ve read that fanfiction before…

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Kamen Rider Amazons

I never thought I’d compare a Kamen Rider title to Tokyo Ghoul and Attack on Titan, but here we are. The show itself contains considerable amounts of gore, especially in the second season, some of which looks rather fake and some of which looks realistic enough to potentially nauesate. Spoiler warnings for season two, which isn’t available on English-language Amazon yet.

Kamen Rider Amazons is the franchise’s first experiment with making something that aims for an audience a little older than ten to twelve. The result is very interesting, unusual for this property, and while it’s not all great there’s a lot to recommend. The first thing to address is probably that, while this is a Darker and Grittier… side-reboot?, it abstains from the usual excess of sexual assault and so forth that accompanies the idea of dark-and-grit; when your main franchise is for selling children’s toys you don’t want that associated with onscreen graphic rape. The second thing is that, okay, there’s no nice way to put it: newer Kamen Rider titles look like shit. I’ve tried to watch post-Kabuto titles and there’s no perceptible improvement in CGI between Kamen Rider Kabuto (2006-2007) and Kamen Rider Build (2017-2018). Arguably the fight choreography is worse. Certainly the actors are far, far worse. I don’t know what happened here, whether it’s a budget issue or if they just churned these out quickly with the sole intention of selling merch and assuming that children don’t know any better. I’m pretty sure ten-year-olds these days recognize and complain about bad CGI, though.

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Some new skincare product recs

My skin is, currently, looking the best it ever has in a while. Obviously this is all YMMV and what works for me may turn your face into a complete crater, though probably not. Read on, but follow my routine with some caution, always check ingredients against your allergies.

These products can pretty much make up your entire routine, barring cleanser and sunscreen. Step by step in this order: toner, aloe vera gel (on its own or mixed with a drop or two of rosehip oil), cicapair cream, then turmeric cream. The Sidmool zinc cream is best for spot treatment.

Dr.Jart+ Cicapair Cream ($28). The one in the tube, not the one in the tub with SPF. Ingredients here. There’s a lot of imitators of this line from mid-range brands, I think pretty much all of them have got some kind of ‘cica___’ or ‘mild care’ lines that incorporate a lot of centella asiatica, Etude House Soon Jung and Innisfree Bija Cica lines coming to mind, but honestly in this case it’s worth shelling out for the Jart original. It’s a bit pricier, but you get 50 ml and you really do need very little product per application. It’s thick, it’s got shea butter and beeswax as ingredients, and if you’re clog-prone it could well clog up your pores. Having said that, there’s something superior about this cream’s formulation over its cheaper counterparts, and it does a fabulous job of soothing and calming skin, and most likely has occlusive properties. This is responsible for fixing weird breakouts I get overnight. Like I said, you don’t need much, I’m still using my tiny 5 ml sample tube after several weeks. The 50 ml tube is going to last at least a year. Good enough for the price.

It has some fragrance, very… mild and herbal and slightly earthy? It’s not a perfumed smell, and most likely it smells like this due to the ingredients, and the smell is completely different from Jart Ceramidin line. Milder but a bit less conventional. Goes away quick, though.

The Face Shop Jeju Aloe 99% Fresh Soothing Gel ($9.65). Hey look, it’s one of those super size products that clock in at a whopping 250 ml. The ingredients are pretty standard for aloe ver gels peddled by mid-range brands, and it does have alcohol denat. Having said that, the percentage of alcohol is little enough I never catch a whiff of it, and I haven’t had any issue. It’s a big product. You can use it as a hair mask, you can use it on the face, you can smear it all over the body. Nothing fancy, but what I like is that it dries down well and mixes very well with thicker moisturizers, creamy masks, or oils. (My preferred oil is rosehip; it can do magical things.) Per the ingredient list, this does contain actual fragrance, and it has this generic artificial aloe vera scent. Not my favorite thing about it, but the product’s good and it doesn’t bother me a lot.

Vicco Turmeric Cream ($5-10). Ingredients. This is cool. Real cool. Actually it’s literally cooling when applied, but not like when a product contains eucalyptus or menthol. Turmeric applied topically has a lot of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties, and might help with acne scarring. The Vicco cream particularly has a super-short ingredient list, contains a HUGE amount of turmeric (it’ll stain your pillowcase, yes, so watch out) and some sandalwood oil–there’s a version without the sandalwood available–and when you first apply it, it can sting a bit. But afterward it’ll completely mattify and soothe your face, and you can use it for daytime prep before applying makeup or at night. This cream comes in various sizes, at various prices, but it’s cheap enough you can just slather your face in it without fear. Obviously don’t pick it up if you’ve got an allergy to sandalwood oil.

One warning, the smell of the sandalwood oil is VERY strong and it’s going to linger on your face.

Sidmool Dr. Troub Skin Returning Zinc Cream ($21, 60 ml). Ingredients. I agree broadly with RatzillaCosme here (and her review is what persuaded me to give this cream a try) but what she doesn’t mention is that this cream is thick. The zinc content, at 10%, is pretty high and that makes it fantastic for fighting inflammation and breakouts (also works for bug bites and allergic rashes; diaper rash creams, like Sudacrem, also have a high zinc content) but that much zinc means this thing is almost impossible to spread until it’s been warmed up by your skin or has been mixed with a more emollient moisturizer, or an oil. However, once it has spread, it’s actually pretty comfortable on the skin and leaves a tacky (not greasy) finish. I can’t speak to whether it’d make a good pseudo-primer for foundation, but it does have this odd quality where it blurs your pores a bit even though there’s no silicone in the formula. There is a white cast if you haven’t rubbed the cream in enough.

For comparison, Laroche Posay Cicaplast Baume is similar in that it’s also a zinc-based cream designed to calm inflammation, but personally the Sidmool works much better for me. Cicaplast Baume is easier to spread, but once on the skin it’s much less cosmetically elegant and just sits on your face instead of absorbing, and leaves a weird, unpleasant texture.

Secret Key Witch Hazel Pore Clear Toner ($9). Ingredients. A lot of people swear by the Thayer’s Witch Hazel Toner, I swear by this. It’s cheaper (the bottle contains 243 ml), has a pretty nice ingredient list, and does a great job of being a cleansing, slightly astringent toner without being stripping. There’s some alcohol, but not so much you can smell it. It’s somewhat fragranced and that might bother some people, but I’d say it’s fairly mild.

Fate/Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel – Presage Flower

Hooray.

Presage Flower makes very little sense if you have never consumed any of the Fate installments before: it condenses parts of Unlimited Blade Works into a blurry opening montage, skipping rapidly past Shirou summoning Saber, Archer fighting Lancer, large chunks of Rin and Shirou interactions. As someone who’s already watched UBW, this was a relief–no one needs those scenes animated slightly differently rehashed all over again. Sure, there’s no characterization for Rin, Saber, Archer, Lancer or really anyone else who isn’t named Sakura, Shinji, or Shirou. But you can go watch the first five or eight episodes of UBW, right?

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It’s Binge Live-Action Anime Adaptations Time! Fullmetal Alchemist (2017) and Tokyo Ghoul (2017)

The Fullmetal Alchemist (2017) live action adaptation just dropped worldwide, and because I heard it’s… less bad… than some live action films of anime, I gave it a try. And it’s… less bad… than others. But it’s still really bad. More on that later.

The absolute first thing you’re going to notice is that the wigs in this film are horrendous. The direct seems committed to slapping them on everyone who needs to be blonde but, being Japanese, are obviously not. Ed’s wig is almost exceptionally terrible, though Riza Hawkeye’s doesn’t fare much better, but Ed’s wig in particular is inescapable due to the frequency of close-ups to his face. The second thing you’re going to notice is that Yamada Ryosuke has either been cursed with a truly bad script (pretty likely) or simply cannot act.

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